Danes seek ‘flexible’ opt-in on EU justice and home affairs

Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Helle Thorning-Schmidt [Jakob Horn/Flickr]

The Danish government reached an agreement Tuesday morning (17 March) on which parts of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs agenda will be submitted to an upcoming referendum. 

The Scandinavian country will likely move away from a blanket opt-out on all EU justice and police matters to a partial opt-in approach.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt had initially included 50 legal acts as part of the parliamentary negotiations. Parties finally agreed that 22 will be submitted to a referendum, to be held by April 2016.

These legal acts include the cross-border Legal Aid Directive, the Cyber Crime Directive, the Directive on combating the abuse and sexual exploitation of children, and the Directive on trafficking in human beings. 

The Danish case-based opt-in approach would be similar to the EU Justice arrangements currently in place in the UK and Ireland. 

“If I was to put a headline on this deal, I would say that these legal acts will make it more difficult to be a criminal in Europe and easier and safer to be a Dane,” Thorning-Schmidt said at a press conference. “These are also legal acts that will make it easier for our companies to move across Europe’s borders,” she continued.

Thorning-Schmidt has repeatedly called for getting rid of the justice opt-out, arguing that Denmark would eventually be forced to leave Europol, which the country joined 17 years ago. Denmark also has opt-outs on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Defence and ‘Citizenship of the European Union’. 

In October, Thorning-Schmidt first announced that a referendum on the Justice opt-out was imminent. In December, a majority of the parties in Denmark’s parliament secured an agreement which stated that irrespective of the results of this year’s general elections, a referendum will be held before the second quarter of 2016. 

Following the shootings in Copenhagen a month ago, which were labelled ‘terror attacks’ by the prime minister, proposals for new measures to prevent terror attacks in the country have been discussed in the legislature on a daily basis.

>> Read: Danish PM promises new measures to fight terrorism after attacks in Copenhagen

Thorning-Schmidt had been looking to push forward a referendum on Denmark’s opt-out from EU justice and home affairs cooperation following the the attacks in France in January.

>> Read: Paris killings cement Danish referendum on EU justice opt-out

Denmark obtained four opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty following the treaty's initial rejection in a 1992 referendum.

The opt-outs are outlined in the Edinburgh Agreement and concern the Monetary Union (EMU), Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and the Citizenship of the European Union.

With these opt-outs, the Danes accepted the treaty in a second referendum held in 1993. In 2000, Danes rejected a referendum on adopting the euro.

  • 1 April 2016: Deadline for Danish referendum on Justice opt-in.

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